American artist Theaster Gates is internationally renowned for his cross-disciplinary practice that spans sculpture, painting, sound, and performance. Featuring all new works, many of which will be created on site, this exhibition marks the artist’s continued investigation into the relationship between visual politics, shamanism, and object making.
The title of the exhibition refers to American sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois’ seminal work The Souls of Black Folk. Comprised of 14 essays that portray the genius and humanity of the Black race, this publication is considered an important work in sociology and African American literary history. Inspired by Du Bois’ sociological studies on the advancements of Black Americans from the time of Emancipation to 1900, the exhibition will feature a series of response paintings in which the statistical data gathered and made visual by Du Bois has been reduced to abstract color fields and geometric motifs. Both an act of homage to Du Bois’ sophisticated Modernism as well as a reference to the history of art, Gates’ paintings give poetic form to the archival.
But To Be A Poor Race questions a particular kind of poverty, one that is not just about a lack of economic capital but one that is deprived of the basic elements from which one can make a living,” says Gates. For Gates, sculpture – as a derivative of the minor arts, craft, or the decorative and plastic arts – has been an important historical invention. Throughout Gates’ artistic career and especially during his time at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the need for divine acts to have material and human vessels has undergirded his investigations. The exhibition begins to demonstrate Gates’ thoughtful handling of sometimes imagined African reliquary objects and other historic Black forms, referencing the power that can be honed from ‘poor’ materials. But To Be A Poor Race offers a salute to the possibility of power and beauty.
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